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The New Celebrity Status Symbol

From vintage Van Cleef and Arpels to classic Omega, historic timepieces are becoming the newest celeb craze

Kim Kardashian West broke the watch-world Internet in June when she bid $379,500 to win a Cartier Tank previously owned by Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. The revelation was a bombshell within horology circles—sellers and collectors of historically significant timepieces usually keep their trades on the down-low. But it’s a whole other game for watch-loving stars, who are anything but shy when it comes to showing off their latest acquisitions.

Kardashian’s not the only one flocking to historic timepieces. Demand for vintage timepieces so outstrips supply that watchmakers are re-issuing classic collectibles. Omega even used X-ray tomography to recreate 1957 versions of the Seamaster 300, the Railmaster and the Speedmaster.

But there’s a special appeal for celebrities who want to avoid showing up in a “Who Wore It Best” showdown on the red carpet. Having an iconic watch that was owned by an icon is ultra-exclusive. And stars love a good story and Hollywood pedigree. Anyone with enough connections and good timing can get their hands on a Paul Newman Rolex Daytona—a version of the Rolex Cosmograph Daytona Reference 6239 with an exotic dial that the actor wore in the 1960s. While this style of chronograph is already rare, Paul Newman’s own personal Daytona is a singularity. And it’s coming up for auction at Phillips’s first New York watch auction this October. The rarity and provenance alone makes it the most anticipated watch auction of 2017.

But fueling it all might be a subconcious idea that possessing a watch associated with a famous person might buy you a bit of reflected glory. One of the highlights of New York’s July Antique Jewelry and Watch Show was the Duchess of Windsor Wallis Simpson’s 1940s-era, platinum and pavé diamond Van Cleef and Arpels Cadenas watch. Just imagine—someone asks who you’re wearing and you’re able to answer: “The Duchess of Windsor, my dear.”